Falcons: Why Desmond Ridders needs to be ready to play

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There’s an old saying that when football teams have two quarterbacks, they really have none. In Atlanta, the Falcons have Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, but I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing.

The rookie is an absolute gamer, going 10-of-22 passing against the Lions in the team’s preseason opener for 103 yards, two touchdowns and an 89.8 passer rating. That includes Falcons pass catchers dropping at least four balls and Ridder throwing another away. He displayed that it factor on fourth down with 90 seconds remaining, escaping the pocket and tossing the go-ahead touchdown to Jared Bernhardt.

It was more of the same against the Jets too. Ridder was 10-for-13 passing for 143 yards and a 112.0 passer rating. He was much more accurate, anticipatory, and looked poised in the pocket against New York. The one downside was the offense wasn’t able to punch it in the endzone, but that’s not necessarily his fault. The group stalled in the red zone multiple times due to penalties.

The team isn’t treating him like a normal rookie. And it’s working out great so far.

“A lot of lessons learned, and I’ve got high expectations from Desmond,” Smith said. “We are going to be hard on Desmond, because he’s a good player and he can take that kind of coaching. He understands, we’re not waiting on him as a rookie. Trying to speed him up, so he made some good throws, some things he’s got to clean up, especially in the operation.”

Ridder might not unseat Mariota as the starter; after all, the veteran signal caller has done nothing to relinquish the starting job. However, Ridder needs to be ready to play during the regular season because Mariota has been susceptible to injury. Since 2015, the former No. 2 overall pick has dealt with a slew of injuries; below is a detailed account of his lengthy injury history.

Date League Injury Details
Jan 12, 2015 Non-NFL Shoulder A/C Joint Sprain Mariota sprained his right shoulder in the National Championship game.
Oct 18, 2015 NFL Knee MCL Sprain Grade 2 Mariota was rolled up on in Week 6 against the Dolphins and sprained his MCL. He missed the next two games.
Dec 20, 2015 NFL Knee MCL Sprain Grade 2 Mariota sprained his right MCL and missed the final two games.
Dec 24, 2016 NFL Leg Fibula Fracture In Week 16, Mariota suffered a broken fibula against the Jags.
Oct 1, 2017 NFL Thigh Hamstring Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1 Mariota missed only 1 game.
Dec 22, 2018 NFL Cervical Neck Stinger Mariota missed the season finale.
Sep 9, 2018 NFL Arm Elbow Sprain Mariota missed 1 game with a pinched nerve.
Nov 18, 2018 NFL Cervical Neck Stinger Mariota missed 1 half of play but returned the following week vs. Houston.
Aug 27, 2020 NFL Chest Pectoral Strain Grade 2 Mariota was placed on injured reserve as he was dealing with a strained pectoral during the training camp. He missed the first five games of 2020 season.
Aug 12, 2021 NFL Leg Quad Strain Mariota missed preseason games because of a quad injury
Sep 13, 2021 NFL Leg Quad Strain Mariota aggravated a strained quadriceps during the Week 1 win over the Ravens. He was placed on IR and missed five games.

Falcons fans might not know much about Mariota, but he’s as competitive as they come in the National Football League. Fans in Atlanta got their first glimpse of that against the Lions when the veteran scrambled multiple times without giving himself up. He fights for every yard, which certainly provides a spark for the team and fan base, but he constantly puts himself in harm’s way. You never want a guy to change his style of play, but at some point, he has to realize that he’s QB1.

Mariota can still be effective as a runner without taking unnecessary hits, especially senseless hits in the preseason. Russell Wilson has done this better than anyone. He consistently threatens defenses with his feet while seemingly never taking big hits. Ridder needs to be ready to play because if history repeats, Mariota will eventually miss some time. This isn’t something I’m hoping for at all; it’s just how the old saying goes, “prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”

Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

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